Sins of the Father

The taxi drove past the house at a quarter past eight every weekday morning. Annabelle could see the girls sitting stiff and upright in the back seat as they went by. They reminded her of mannequins with their blank expressions, always staring forwards, never seeming to see what was ahead. She wondered how much of all that had happened they understood.

The experts consulted by the court had decided that their daily needs would best be met in another town amongst strangers. The few friends that Annabelle had managed to keep, those who had not joined in with the general condemnation and subsequent ostracisation, reported that the girls were calm but unresponsive in this new setting. The staff had tried at first but with so many challenging cases in their care it was easier to let the quiet ones be.

It would have been easier for Annabelle to let things be except then she couldn’t have lived with herself. She had a stubborn streak and a desire to do what she thought was for the best whatever the cost to herself. This latest attempt at improving the world for those she cared about had cost them dearly.

When she had first arrived in town and the twins had ignored her she would not accept that this could never be changed. Her predecessor had warned her to expect nothing more but she observed the girls ability to understand each other’s needs and slowly learned to join in. It had surprised everyone when, at the age of eight, they had uttered their first words.

Words can be dangerous weapons.

When confronted their father denied everything and threw Annabelle out of their comfortable home, angrily terminating the contract that she had naively imagined would offer them all some protection. The unwanted attention of subsequent investigations sent the girls back into their own little world. It was clear from the medical evidence that they had been abused but not by whom.

There had been seven carers since their mother had hanged herself from a tree in the back yard one sunny afternoon in the summer of the girls’ third year. None had noticed anything amiss.

The townspeople were suddenly noticing a great deal.

Some claimed that Annabelle’s non-existent advances had been spurned by the father, others that the stress of caring for the girls had driven her over the edge as it had their mother. Some speculated that the mother had made the same discovery and could not live with it, cruelly pondering why she had not taken her damaged daughters with her.

Annabelle had watched the storm that she had unleashed spin wildly beyond her control leaving nothing but hurt and destruction in its wake. Her beloved girls, spurned by society for being born different, were now beyond her care. Their father had completed his time in court by taking out an injunction to ensure she kept her distance.

Perhaps she should have moved away. Perhaps she would have done had the father not courted his defence lawyer, now pregnant with their first child. Annabelle’s hairdresser had eagerly disclosed that the early scans showed a little girl.

Annabelle understood predilections, especially the sins of a father. She would bide her time.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Inheritance

Short fiction (500 words) written for Prompted: Sneaky | Tipsy Lit.

 prompted-button

There are some things I would rather not know, such as that my mom killed my dad. I mean, he was a bastard, but still. What was I supposed to do with that knowledge? She shouldn’t have told me.

I don’t remember him clearly, but I do remember the fights. He would come home drunk and start yelling, crashing around the house, throwing things and hitting out at anyone who got in his way. I mostly stayed in my room when he was around. Maybe that’s why I can’t picture him now.

Mom told me he’d left us and all I felt was relief. She had to go out to work, and then we moved states. I wasn’t sorry to go. I didn’t know how to make friends back then and school sucked. Mom said it was a fresh start, I wish she’d let us move on.

I liked the anonymity of the city, the bustle and life and nobody knowing who I was. I thought mom was happier but turns out she brought her demons with her. We never talked much until that night, especially not about him. What was there to say?

I’d been hanging out with some guys and we pikeyed a load of beers, sat and drank them in the parking lot before throwing up and heading home. Mom lost it when she saw the state of me, I’d never seen her so mad.

She sat me down and started talking about getting pregnant and family shame and being pressured into marrying; how being a drunk could be inherited and she wouldn’t live with that again. I must have dropped off because she started yelling, hitting me round the head. I didn’t mean to push her over.

I was scared the way she looked at me, all that hate bubbling out. She told me if I ever laid a finger on her again she’d kill me, like she had my old man. I said ‘What do you mean?’ but only because I was fuddled and it made no sense. She shouldn’t have answered.

Once she started talking it was as if she couldn’t stop, so I left; wandered around until it got dark, then crashed in the doorway of a store. Some cops moved me on, but where was I supposed to go?

I caught a bus to the freeway and hitched a ride with a trucker. The people here don’t ask many questions if you’re offering labour on the cheap. I pay my bed and board, put the rest towards learning a trade. I never saw a reason to try until she showed me what I could become; I guess she gave me that at least.

Two things I know for sure: I’m not a drunk and I’m not a killer. I’ll walk my own path from here.

 

Escaping the past

*trigger warning: contains references to familial sexual abuse*

prompted-button

Short story (500 words) written for Prompted: Holding Back | Tipsy Lit.

I do not fear pain, it has always been a part of my existence. Father did this to me, along with my uncles. All those years of sharing us out, a gaggle of girl cousins brought up as one. Until I became a woman and undesirable; then they attacked and left me for dead. Except I wasn’t dead.

My therapist tried to tell me that I was a survivor; I think that I am just unlucky. I realise now that I shouldn’t have tried to find help, that I shouldn’t have told the truth to the police.

I didn’t know that the doctors would poke me and prod at me with their hands and their instruments. I was put in the spotlight, feet up in stirrups, cameras rolling; an interesting thing for them to examine and discuss, take pictures of to put in their reports.

Then there were the interviews, the endless questions. ‘Do you recognise this man?’ ‘Was this man ever there?’ ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Are you absolutely sure?’ And all the adults assumed that I wanted justice. I didn’t care about justice, I wanted the escape that my father had granted my sisters.

The court case lasted months. The papers and the television had a field day with all the salacious details. I was brought to the courtroom like the fugitive I had become, covered up, hurried along. The court order not to print my name or my picture was unnecessary; until the hospital I had not existed. They never could prove how many of us had been killed.

When they were jailed I was expected to celebrate. I was given a new life in care; that was no life. All those damaged kids, taking out their anger on each other. I counted down the days to my sixteenth birthday when I could get away.

My therapist told me not to hold it all inside, to express how I felt. I felt numb, cold and broken. Week after week I would stare at him silently across the room until my half hour was up. He would sigh deeply, telling me that I must try to help myself and move on.

I look at the bloody knife in my hands, at the man lying dead on the floor. I let it all out as he advised. When he grabbed me from behind, his whisky breath in my ear suggesting a release, I was not afraid. I taunted him, confused him, found the voice I had buried and made him angry. It was his anger that I channelled until I found my own, it was the system that I stabbed at again and again.

He was wrong though, there was no release in letting go. I feel exhausted but still empty and so alone.

I go to the window and open it for air, look down at the teeming life below. I climb onto the ledge and breath in the smell of the city. I hold out my arms and I fly.

Fantastic love

Alan switched on his computer with trembling fingers. What would she have written about him this time? He scanned the text quickly, speed reading as best he could, then went back to the beginning to give each new sentence his full attention. The storyline was as obvious as ever but only he could understand the nuances and hidden meanings, only he had been with her when it happened.

He did not understand how she could share their most intimate moments in this way. She had tried to claim that it was not him, but who else could it be? Karen was a good girl, she would not have been with another man as she described. Her feeble attempts to disguise his identity in her story would fool nobody who had known them. She was laying him bare, literally, and he could do nothing about it.

Of course he had tried. The restraining order made it difficult for him to talk to her in person, but he had left messages on her voice mail until she changed her number, comments on line until she had blocked him. Eventually he had confronted her despite the trouble it caused, but to no avail. Once again she would not listen to reason.

Alan dressed carefully, ate his slice of toast and drank his tea as always. Locking the door of his spartan flat he caught the bus into town to report to his probation officer. He had tried to make a formal complaint and been told that he had no grounds. It seemed that she could tell their story without his permission, the unfairness of their respective treatments by the authorities burned.

The officer he normally reported to had been called away and left no notes, so Alan would be required to return the next day. As he left the premises earlier than expected he glanced down the street. Karen would be arriving at the shop soon.

He could walk past at a distance but was forbidden from entering, from watching her as she worked as he once had. He observed the customers come and go, clenching his fists involuntarily as each man went in to ogle his girl. This is what had caused the trouble, this and her laughter when he told her she must resign from her job.

She had tried to claim that he did not own her, that he could trust her. She did not understand that it was not his Karen that he did not trust but those lecherous hounds who went into her workplace again and again. He had heard their lewd comments and attempts at compliments as she scanned their petty purchases. It was not a fit environment for a good girl.

On the day she was to resign Alan had bought her flowers, a bottle of wine with which to celebrate their renewed commitment to each other. And then she had come home and acted shocked that he had expected her to hand in the letter he had told her to write on the previous evening. He had made himself clear, she could not have misunderstood. He had not intended to hit her so hard.

The way she described his virility had surprised him. He knew that he was strong, loyal and caring but the other attributes she gave him showed the depths of her feeling. Alan wondered how long she would continue this charade, how long she would tease him with her words before she once again welcomed him into her arms that they could play out the scenes she described.

He knew now that she loved him, longed for him as he did her. If only she would desist from sharing their story with the rest of the world then they could try again. She wrote of their love yet would no longer allow him to be a part of her life. Her punishing him in this way for his one mistake was all but unbearable.

He could not wait around for long outside the office, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. If observed he would be in trouble yet again. Returning to his flat Alan passed the postman on the stairs. The thick letter that had been delivered was an unwelcome sight; he recognised her lawyer’s franking.

He opened the package carefully and could not quite believe what he read. How could she have taken up with another man when she had so vividly described her passion for Alan? It made no sense, it could not be true.

The letter made clear the altered terms of the restraining order, that he had assumed she had applied to cancel. He was forbidden from interrogating her co-workers, from attempting to find out where she had gone. His probation had another six months to run during which time he was to remain in this town.

Alan sat down and switched on his computer, reading once again the story of their love. She could not write about him in this way if she was with another man, there must be some mistake.

One day he would find her and all would be well. She was a good girl and she loved him. Perhaps these stories were just her way of keeping his memory alive while they suffered the fallout of her foolish willingness to comply with the police and press charges. Time would pass, his probation would end. When they were together again he would put a stop to her writing for good.

Tommy’s first camping trip

It was lovely to see Tommy so excited. He had surprised them all by suggesting the trip but Doug had jumped at the idea. A weekend of wild camping, father and son. A chance for Tommy to learn how to shoot and trap animals, forage and cook on an open fire. They had never been away just the two of them. Mary still considered her son to be a little young for such adventures, but they had been through so much recently. She wanted to see him happy again.

Doug prepared as for a military campaign. They would drive into the hills and then hike to a remote spot he had visited before. He often hunted alone, stress relief he called it. The boy had surprised him with the sudden interest, but Doug remembered when he was that age and how eager he had been to make his first kill. Perhaps Tommy was not the woose that he had feared.

They set up camp by torchlight, a basic tent with rollmats and sleeping bags pitched in a small clearing. Tommy offered to prepare the burger meat that his mom had packed for that first night while Doug fetched wood for the fire. As they cooked and ate under the stars Doug talked of the traps they could create, how they would mask their scent as they waited for prey. Tommy listened attentively, passing his father the beers that he had cooled in water from a nearby stream.

As his father started to snore Tommy left the tent. He packed his carefully rolled up sleeping bag and mat along with his mug, plate and knife. Checking that his father was still asleep he made his way along a different path to that they had arrived by, not switching on his torch until he was deep within the canopy of trees. He stopped from time to time to ensure that he was not being followed. If he had read the map correctly he would reach the road by sunrise and be able to catch the first bus home.

Mary was startled when she saw her exhausted son at the screen door, weeping piteously and hugging him close when he offered his explanation.

They went through a normal weekend. Mary drove the kids to football practice, explaining that Doug had gone hunting. A couple of the dads were surprised to see Tommy having been party to Doug’s plans. Tommy muttered that he had changed his mind, not caring when the men rolled their eyes.

They did not report Doug missing until his work phoned up on Monday to ask why he had not shown up. The police took their time setting up a search. He was a grown man, an experienced hunter. The search area would be vast.

In the end it was another hunter who came across the tent and found the body. It had been mauled by animals, not a pretty sight. The investigation was cursory, if there were any suspicion of foul play it was not followed up. The family had been at home, all knew the risks of hunting alone in the wild. When the body was cremated it was noted by a few that the children did not cry.

*

She had said that she would give him one last chance. After the last time, when she had been hospitalised for three weeks, he had promised not to do it again. He had promised that before.

The police had asked if she wanted help but she had refused. He took care of her and the kids. She told them that she had fallen out of a tree in the yard trying to change a swing rope. It was a ridiculous excuse and she knew it, but the injuries had been too serious for any of the usual lies. He would lose his job if she pressed charges, then where would they be, her and the kids?

Tommy knew what had happened though. She had tried to talk to him about it, to make sure he understood what was at stake. His response was one of denial, but he had been at the window. She had seen him when Doug went to call the ambulance. He could have seen it all.

*

Tommy did not know how long he had until his mom did something wrong again. He had already collected the rat poison, ground it down to a powder and hidden it. Now he had to find some excuse to prepare food for his father, to hide the body for a while, and to hope for some of the luck that his short life had never offered him before. He could think of no other solution. He was not going to let that bastard kill his mom.

What the circus left behind

Written for this week’s Tipsy Lit Prompted: What’s Within the Circus Tent?

He was standing with his back to her, arguing with the woman in the glittery dress. Their raised voices frightened Ellie. The words they used stabbed and crushed, shutting down her ability to understand. It had taken all of her courage to get this far. Now, despite the daydreams and eager anticipation, she wanted nothing more than to escape.

The woman noticed her and he turned around to see what had caused the distraction. Swiftly he walked over, the woman throwing one last fierce interjection at his back before marching out of the tent, glowering at Ellie as she passed. Ellie realised that she was shaking and was suddenly afraid that she was going to be sick. Last time she had been sick Davy had pushed her face into the mess and then hit her hard, again and again.

‘Where’s your mam?’ he demanded. Ellie looked up into his familiar, bright blue eyes. He had looked elegant yet strong before, smiling as he acknowledged the applause of the crowd. Now he smelt sour and looked angry, make up smeared across his weathered face. Ellie had never seen a man wear make up before. Under the bright lights of the show she had not noticed it.

‘What does she want?’ he asked, his voice a little gentler. Ellie swallowed and tried to pass on the message that had been drilled into her. All that came out was a squeak before she burst into tears. Mortified she tried to turn back the way she had come. She wanted to run away but where could she go?

Grabbing at her arm he pulled her into the ring and sat her down on one of the colourful blocks that separated the audience and the magical show. ‘Where is she? Tell her I have no money to give. I knew this place would be trouble but the takings are good. Barry won’t even consider missing this stop on the circuit.’

Ellie tried to calm down, the words made no sense but gave her time to fight back the tears and try again. ‘Mummy told me to tell you that it’s your turn now’, she managed to say. ‘I’m on my own because she’s gone away with Davy. They’re having a baby. Davy don’t want me. Mummy said to tell you she’s gone away.’

The man stared at her, his look terrifying. ‘I’ve nowhere else to go’, she cried pitifully before bursting into tears again, hugging herself as she rocked back and forth on the cold wooden block.

She had been told so many stories about the circus. She had been taken her to the shows and looked out for this man. ‘That’s your daddy’ they had said.

Each time he came to town they would meet briefly. He had lied, telling her she was pretty; given her sweets and ruffled her hair. Last time he had asked if she wanted to run away with him, to learn how to dance and twirl, live a life of adventure travelling from place to place. It sounded so much better than the cramped flat where Mummy and Davy got drunk and forgot to make dinner.

They had left that morning to catch a bus to far away. Ellie had been given the money to go to the circus after school, carefully zipped into her dirty skirt pocket. Mummy had kissed her and cried when she said goodbye. Mummy never kissed her.

The man was on his phone. Ellie sat still, cold and alone, needing the toilet but afraid to ask. When the police arrived she wondered what she had done wrong. She had tried so hard to do exactly as instructed today, but Davy had always told her she was a pest and would come to a bad end.